The Latest: Rubio calls Trump-Cruz debate talk a ‘sideshow’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Here are the latest developments from the 2016 race for president, less than a week out from the Iowa caucuses. All times local.

7:30 p.m.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is calling billionaire Donald Trump’s decision to skip Thursday night’s Republican debate, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s subsequent one-on-one challenge an “interesting sideshow.”

But he told an audience of mostly young people and families with children at a West Des Moines sports bar Wednesday evening that “this is serious. We cannot lose this election.”

Rubio is trying to refocus the discussion in the intensifying race ahead of Monday’s Iowa caucuses, with jabs at the two rivals seen to be vying for first place.

He spoke to the gathering of about 400 supporters after a day spent largely cooped up in his hotel preparing for Thursday’s debate.

The debate preparation Thursday marks a detour from what has been a torrid pre-caucus tromp through the state.

He’ll resume a bus tour Friday and plans to fly around the state for appearances Saturday and Sunday.


7:10 p.m.

Bernie Sanders says he has no intention of going negative on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton even as the two remain in an increasingly tight race just days head of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.

Sanders was on Capitol Hill Wednesday after a meeting with President Barack Obama earlier in the day. He told reporters he has “never run a negative ad” in his life and will not do so against Clinton.

He says he’s proud of running a positive campaign.

Sanders also was asked about GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s decision to skip Thursday night’s Republican debate on Fox News, but did not respond as he walked away from reporters.


6:15 p.m.

Donald Trump’s campaign has formally announced plans to host a special event at the same time as Thursday’s presidential debate.

The move follows the Republican front-runner’s promise to boycott the Fox News debate. He’s been upset with Fox over what he calls unfair treatment from debate moderator Megyn Kelly and a sarcastic tweet from the network.

The campaign issued an advisory Wednesday night with details for what it’s calling a special event.

Just as the prime-time debate begins Thursday at 9 p.m. EST, Trump is scheduled to appear at Drake University in Des Moines at an event the campaign says will benefit veterans.

The appearance will be just two miles from where his Republican rivals gather for the debate.


6 p.m.

Aides to Donald Trump say South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster will introduce and endorse the billionaire businessman at a Wednesday rally outside Columbia.

McMaster’s nod gives Trump the backing of a longtime South Carolina politician widely viewed as an establishment Republican.

He previously served as state GOP chairman and has been an ally of Sen. Lindsey Graham — a failed 2016 White House hopeful and fierce Trump critic.

Polls conducted by Fox News and Winthrop University in early December showed Trump with a strong lead in the first Southern primary state.


4:20 p.m.

Bernie Sanders says he and President Barack Obama talked foreign policy, the economy and “a little bit of politics,” during their first extended sit-down since the Vermont senator’s presidential campaign jolted the race for the Democratic nomination.

Sanders spoke to reporters in the White House driveway after the 45-minute meeting Wednesday.

The White House said the president considered the 45-minute meeting a chance to discuss ways the two could work together, to reminisce about the thrill of campaigning in Iowa and to talk broadly about the state of the 2016 race.

The long-discussed meeting between Obama and his sometime critic was a moment for the president to display public neutrality in the heated and unexpectedly tight primary race to replace him. And rebut suggestions he’s in the can for Sanders’ rival Hillary Clinton.

Sanders says the president has been “even handed” in his treatment of the candidates.


4 p.m.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell aren’t in Iowa or New Hampshire, but can’t avoid questions about the presidential race.

The two leaders gave lighthearted responses Wednesday when asked by Capitol Hill reporters to discuss the campaigns.

Reid joked that he’s “kind of pulling for Donald Trump,” while McConnell avoided discussion of the White House contest altogether. McConnell said he wouldn’t start talking about it because “there’d be no place to end the discussion.”

When asked if the Senate GOP could work with a President Trump, McConnell answered “good try,” adding that they’re “anxious to have a Republican president but not at all sure who that’s going to be yet.”

Reid told reporters he’s “watching with pleasure the Republicans fumbling around,” but later stood on the Senate floor and proclaimed in a more serious tone that “the danger of a Donald Trump candidacy to our country is not a joke.”


3:15 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s campaign released a parody video based off singer Adele’s 2015 hit song “Hello” ahead of Iowa’s Feb. 1 leadoff caucus.

Huckabee’s campaign released a 3.5 minute online video Wednesday entitled “Hello, Huck,” with satirical lyrics sung over the Adele’s hit, with direct jabs to Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. He doesn’t mention any of his GOP rivals by name.

“Iowans are not for sale,” the song says. “They’re stubborn and picky. There’s just no difference between Obama and Hillary.”

“Hello from caucus night. If Bernie wins I’m gonna die. This crazy circus, it’s gone coo-coo-ca-choo, and Huckabee is the guy who’s long overdue.”

Huckabee, who is lagging in the polls behind others in the crowded GOP field, previous ran for president in 2008. He won the Iowa caucus that year, but did not win his party’s nomination.


1:40 p.m.

An Iowa man has been arrested on charges that he threw tomatoes at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign stop at the University of Iowa.

Hayley Bruce, a University of Iowa spokeswoman, says 28-year-old Andrew Joseph Alemao was charged Tuesday with disorderly conduct after officers say they saw him throwing two tomatoes toward Trump during a speech. It wasn’t clear whether the tomatoes hit anyone.

Secret Service and University of Iowa police officers arrested Alemao, and he was booked into the Johnson County Jail.

Johnson County Jail officials say Alemao was released Wednesday morning without bond.


1:00 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says she wants the Democratic National Committee to add another presidential debate before the New Hampshire primary and urging Bernie Sanders to join her on stage.

Clinton says in a phone interview with MSNBC that she’s “anxious” for another debate, adding, “let’s try to make it happen.” She says she wants DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the other campaigns to support another debate.

Sanders’ campaign has said it has no plans to do so because the DNC hasn’t sanctioned the debate. The Vermont senator’s campaign has said it wouldn’t want to jeopardize its participation in two debates planned for after the New Hampshire primary in Wisconsin and Florida.

The DNC has said it’s sticking with its debate schedule.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley supports adding another debate.


12:25 p.m.

Snow is being forecast in Iowa for early next week, but people gathering for the presidential caucuses likely won’t be hindered.

Mindy Beerends, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Des Moines, says there could be rain and a little snow during the caucuses, set to begin at 7 p.m. Monday, but early projections show no accumulating snow until early Tuesday.

Weather is always an unpredictable factor of the caucuses, which typically draw hundreds of thousands of Iowans to precinct gatherings to choose presidential candidates and conduct political party business.

The bigger problem could be for the many campaign staffers and reporters in Iowa who want to leave after the caucuses. They could find their exit complicated by steadier snow Tuesday.


12:00 p.m.

President Barack Obama will welcome Bernie Sanders to the White House Wednesday with days to go until the presidential hopeful takes on Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in the Iowa caucus.

Sanders and his wife arrived to the White House earlier Wednesday ahead of the scheduled meeting with the president.

The long-discussed meeting between the sitting president and his sometime critic is a moment for the president to display public neutrality in the heated and unexpectedly tight primary race to replace him — refuting suggestions that he’s in the can for Clinton.

For Sanders, it’s a chance to show he’s got some sway with a president still popular among Democrats.

The president this week rebuffed suggestions that Sanders’ upstart campaign is a reboot of his own battle against Clinton in 2008.


10:00 a.m.

Republican presidential contender John Kasich is turning his attention to Iowa after a flurry of activity has signaled he may be headed toward the top-tier victory he seeks in New Hampshire.

The Ohio governor has planned town hall meetings in Davenport Wednesday and in Cedar Rapids Friday. He will also participate in the Republican presidential debate Thursday, which is in Des Moines.

The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 1.

Kasich has focused most of his early attention on New Hampshire, where he’s competing for votes from GOP moderates and independents against candidates including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.

Kasich landed endorsements in that contest from the Concord Monitor and the Boston Globe and some polling placed him second among New Hampshire voters behind Donald Trump.


8:45 a.m.

Ted Cruz is mocking Donald Trump’s decision to skip Thursday’s Fox News Republican presidential debate, taunting him on Twitter and creating an image of his face on the illustrated body of Disney tycoon Scrooge McDuck, sitting on top of bags of money.

Cruz on Tuesday responded to Trump’s decision to skip the debate in Des Moines by challenging him to a one-on-one debate, “mano-a-mano.” Cruz is following that up on Wednesday with a satirical message on Twitter, linking to a clip of the song “Brave Sir Robin Ran Away” from a film by the British comedy troupe Monty Python.

Cruz created an online petition showing a mock-up of Trump with the Disney character’s body, sitting on bags of money, on top of a mountain of gold coins, encouraging supporters to “Tell Ducking Donald: Debate Ted Cruz.”


7:20 a.m.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is accusing Fox News anchorwoman Megyn Kelly of being “completely obsessed” with his candidate, and says most people tuned in to the first FOX News Republican debate because Trump was on stage.

His comments to ABC’s Good Morning America Wednesday follow a statement by Trump a day earlier that he would not participate in the upcoming FOX News GOP debate, scheduled for Thursday.

The feud between Trump and Kelly began during the first FOX News debate in August, when Kelly asked the candidate if previous, disparaging comments he has made against women reflect the temperament of a president.

On Tuesday, Trump called Kelly a “lightweight reporter.”

Lewandowski said Wednesday that Trump will instead spend his time with wounded veterans in Des Moines, Iowa. The state hosts the country’s lead-off presidential contest on Feb. 1.